This Thing Isn’t Going to Last Forever

The subject line of her e-mail was: Please help me.

I read her words and my heart felt their weight. Just a few short years ago I was sitting in a similar place myself, reaching through the darkness for someone to give me something to hold on to. Her e-mail reminded me that there are so many people who need words of hope today. These are the words she inspired me to write:

I realized a few days ago, sitting in a cold white room, just how quickly everything can change.

I was reminded that fear is an intruder, he isn‚Äôt a gentleman. I was reintroduced to pain and brokenness, and let me tell you, they don’t always have the friendliest faces.

Not everyone realizes that I went through a long season held hostage by fear. Not the kind of fear that comes and goes; it was the kind that chains itself to you. You feel its breath against your neck every second of every day and it feels like there’s nowhere you can go that fear and his friends don’t follow.

It was a dark time, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t turn off the loud speaker in my head: the one that was dedicated to blaring that voice of doubt, fear, anger, and defeat. No matter how much I prayed, it didn’t seem to work.

The other day, that voice came back for just a moment. I promise you, I thought I was going to have a break down in the middle of Target (which is where I always seem to be when tragedy strikes).

And I did the one thing I knew to do… I picked up the phone. I dialed the number of someone that I trusted, and I asked them to help me silence the fear. I asked for them to tell me I was going to be okay and that this moment wasn’t going to last forever. I needed to hear that it was temporary.

It took me back to nights sitting in my bed, rocking back and forth. With my back pushed against the wall and knees pulled close to my chest, I would just sit there for hours and ask God over and over again to¬†please, help. I wasn’t sure He was hearing me, but over and over again I would beg.

I¬†just kept telling myself night after night,¬†it can’t last forever. It won’t last forever.¬†

It didn’t feel true. Nothing about those words felt true.¬†I had no evidence that my pain was going to lessen or that the fear would shrink. I had no reason to think those nights that haunted me would start to fade in my memory. None of it felt true, but I had to keep telling myself it was. It was the only way I knew how to keep going.

This is the thing I can tell you: you’ve got to keep believing.¬†You have got to keep listening to God when he tells you that it won’t be this way forever.

And when you’re breaking down and you’re on the edge of causing a scene in a department store, sometimes¬†you’ve got to pick up the phone and drown out that voice of hopelessness and despair, even if it’s only for a second.

One thing I’ve learned to be true is that the only way we get through the pain is to have those little moments of peace along the way. We need moments of refuge¬†where we let God and let people speak louder than the fear and the brokenness. Even if we don’t fully believe the words, we have to give ourselves just a few minutes every single day to hope. To hope that tomorrow will be better, and that maybe even a few weeks from now we’ll find ourselves laughing again.

Hear me when I tell you that this thing isn’t going to last forever. You may never fully lose the painful memories, but they will lose their power over you,¬†because goodness will¬†come again. And goodness and love always win, they always overpower the darkness, hate, and violence.

Love is a blanket and it covers over the worst things, I promise you that.

I know you might not see¬†Him yet, but Love is there, even if¬†you’re still shaking from the cold. Love is still wrapping you up. Sometimes you’ve got to sit in that love for a bit before the warmth starts to seeps into your bones. You will stop shaking though, eventually you’re going to feel the warmth return to your fingers and toes. You’re going to unclench your jaw and finally breathe again.

Just keep holding on. Keep telling yourself truth, even if it doesn’t seem true today. And if you can’t hear God right now, pick up the phone and let Him use someone who loves you to speak the truth. Let His truth be louder than the lies, even if you can only do it for a minute each day.

In the long run, that minute will make all the difference. That minute of breathing will help keep you from drowning.

And know that you are not alone and this won’t last forever.¬†

It won’t. It can’t.¬†Because fear and his friends aren’t¬†powerful enough to win against a God who can never lose.

Advertisements

Sitting across from two complete strangers I started to yell…

I’ve been replaying this memory in my head.

A while back,¬†someone walked up to me weeks¬†after we’d met¬†and said “You may not remember me…”

I was stunned, absolutely speechless. I just kept quiet and went along with it. The whole time this person was talking and reminding me of that first introduction (one that was relatively significant), all that kept rolling through my mind was,¬†Do you… do you actually think you could be so easily forgotten?

Looking back, I wish I had grabbed¬†their shoulders, stared straight in their eyes and said, “You are better than multiple introductions given with a shaky voice, and thinking someone wouldn’t¬†remember your¬†golden smile.”

But those aren’t things we say to people, especially not on our second interaction. We smile politely and ask about their hometown, career, or where they went to college. We don’t drown them¬†in words of value from the first second. We just go through the motions and keep to ourselves all the things we immediately love about them.

We restrain ourselves. We’re always holding back. We’re always trying to do what’s¬†proper, because reservation has become synonymous with dignity. But when did hesitancy and suppression become virtues? Who decided that it was unbecoming to exuberantly and extravagantly tell someone how wonderful they are as soon as you meet them?

I met some amazing people over the weekend and it shook me.

It happened after I was¬†thrown into a room of middle-aged parents, people who are in entirely different stages of life than I am. And there I was, trying to hold myself together. I didn’t want to speak too loudly, express myself too extravagantly. I wanted to appear poised and collected.

And then suddenly, sitting across from two complete strangers I started to yell, “Where did you come from? You are my people! You’re amazing!¬†I love you!”

For a second, I felt exposed and childlike. I felt like I had just belched at a banquet table in The White House.

Until their faces spread into the widest grins. They laughed and both gave me strong, lengthy hugs and words of equal affirmation.

It was then that I realized that no other words could have been more valuable, more remarkable. I had in one swift outburst, burned the bridge of detachment that I had always been told was mature and professional upon meeting someone.

I immediately went back to that memory I’d been mulling over and whole-heartedly wished I had handled it in that same manner. I wished that I would have grabbed that person, the one who had put¬†on a¬†name-tag¬†that said Stranger. Oh, that I would¬†have¬†excitedly pulled them in and called them Known.

We keep letting people in our lives label themselves Stranger. We wait…sometimes months, sometimes years. After numerous surface-level interactions, we might then¬†graduate to a casual compliment or vocally acknowledge their value. We give nods and half smiles, feeling uncomfortable to go beyond that.¬†We don’t know them, after all. It would be weird to say something of actual consequence.

But how odd it is that we have to give ourselves pep-talks to interact with people we see daily, weekly, monthly. Isn’t it disheartening that¬†using terms of endearment for other humans takes years, when using them for pets is an instant reaction.

We generously use our most meaningful and affirming words on puppies or kittens, but hold them back for years from the people across the street or down the hall.

Our craving to¬†appear¬†impressive and¬†eloquent leads us to being neither. I’m learning that there’s nothing impressive about my holding back from others my pure and joyful adoration for them, the delight I feel when they are simply themselves. Even if I’ve only known them a few short moments.

The world has enough dignified people who paint inside the lines, fold their hands, and craft their words. What the world really needs are the finger-painters who might make a mess, but whose words are ones of love unrehearsed and love unreserved.

7 Billion Reasons for Grace

I am pulling out mixing bowls and measuring cups again.

If you’ve been on this journey with me for a while, then you might remember my baking phase after Apartment G¬†.

I’m¬†back at¬†it and I find myself inviting Grace back inside my home to do her thing. She showed up a couple of weeks ago, right after a rain storm and reminded me of late nights at diners¬†and long Carolina¬†car rides.

“This ain’t us.”¬†She told me. I was shakily holding my phone and¬†Anger was fiercely holding me.¬†Grace didn’t force me to do the right thing, she just stood there, holding the door and offering¬†me a way out.

I had forgotten the rhythm that Grace and I had once gotten into, back when she showed me how to live with less. She once taught me that there’s good in everything, sometimes it just¬†takes time to find it.

And in your pain, Grace will tell you to keep going. She will ask you to choose to do the things that feel like salt on the wound; she knows that the things that hurt deeply can often times help you heal. She’ll show you how, and she¬†will pull you low, teaching you how to whisper thank-you’s for that pain.

She will pull you out of bed when your eyes sting and your head pounds. “Come on, there are people¬†waiting for you to show up.”¬†She’ll take your hand and lead you into rooms with people who are aching¬†to hear that they’re going to be alright. She’ll give you the words to say, ones that you could have never come up with on your own.

And when others cry, whether it be tears of joy, sorrow or relief, she will pull you close and hum: “Didn’t I tell you¬†there was more? Oh, don’t you know that you’ve always got 7¬†billion¬†reasons to climb out from underneath those sheets?”

Because Grace won’t make you¬†a schedule¬†that has very many spaces for yourself. She’s got some breaks for you to breathe, but she’s blocked out¬†most of the slots for people in grocery stores, strangers covered in dust and quite a few for the people who handed you back your own heart covered with¬†bruises and deep cuts.

So, when she hoists herself up on your kitchen counter and says things like,¬†I’m sticking around¬†for the long haul”¬†you’ll wonder why you ever let her go, locked her out, didn’t stay in touch. Because that’s all you’ve ever really wanted anyway, those words to be next to you when you realize you can’t do this whole living life thing on your own. We all want something and someone who stays, who doesn’t let us hide beneath those covers and forfeit the¬†places we¬†were born to stand.

“I never gave up on you, you know.”

When she tells you those words, they will carve themselves into the very marrow of your bones. So when the time comes that one of those 7 Billion Reasons stands there trying to give¬†you excuses to walk away, you’ll just pull yourself up onto their counter and say, “I’m in this for the long haul.”

I didn’t know how much I missed her until she came knocking on the door of a little room hidden in the halls of a quaint church. I met her at the door,¬†thinking that she was going to shake her head with disappointment at the time I had let¬†pass. But instead, she tackled me with laughter, steadied my weak knees and walked with me to a place I could have never found without her.

She and I bake in my kitchen, my bare feet relearning how to dance on hardwood floors. I realized that though she pulls me to painful places, pushing Grace away was what led to the most unbearable agony of all.

I moved to Georgia a year ago, lugged my bags into this old brick house, not knowing if I’d ever see her again. But she is always knocking, sometimes it’s so gentle that I’ve got to get still and quiet to hear it.

I told her that I’m planning to keep her around this time. She’s helped me see that the world is much¬†better off when I invite her to stay.

Cheat Sheets: 24 Ways To Be Happier

1. Learn to be confident. Not cocky, not in a I-think-everything-I-do-is-epic-and-incredible way. Be a humble sort of confident–the kind you can wear¬†comfortably like an old worn out sweater,¬†the kind that fits you just right.

2. Stop spending time with people who throw water on your fire. Stop pouring your dreams out to people who tell you they’re impossible and try to make you shove them out of sight.¬†Walk next to people who are carrying their own torch and pushing you to keep running with yours.

3. Wear comfortable and reliable shoes. Really though, I know Target has super cute and affordable ones, but you need to invest more than $14 in something that you’ll be wearing to all the places you’re headed. Take it from me, it is really inconvenient to try and super glue the soles of your shoes back together in a foreign country.

4. Live with other people while you’re single. Laugh at each other when you’re standing in the kitchen with messy hair, make a quote wall¬†of all the dumb/hilarious things your roommates say. Make each other dinner, fight about the dishes, share your bananas, know that this is sure to be one of the best seasons of your life.

5. Know that the world doesn’t revolve around you.¬†Your feelings matter, but you’re not the only person who needs to be seen or heard.¬†Sometimes, the person that just hurt you needs to be told that good things are ahead of them and to keep holding on.

6. Men and women, you need to know this: buy t-shirts, flannels and sweatshirts in the men’s section. They’re cheaper, they’re thicker, they’re longer and they don’t go all awkwardly short & wide after you put them in the wash.

7. Take people to coffee. Spend two or three hours hearing their stories. Ask questions. Don’t text other people, check your social media, or Instagram your mug. Listen. Curl up in that chair and memorize the lines and freckles on their face. Hear the way the words of their own stories tumble out of their mouth and be grateful for the gift it is to give a person¬†the chance to be known.

8. Buy slippers for the colder months. It will save you the horrible task of trying to actually find socks and then having to wash socks and inevitably losing one of them into the sock-stealing-abyss that is the dryer.

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop wishing your hair was longer, your waist was thinner, your nose was smaller. You’re a straight up baller—don’t forget it!

10. Stop counting calories and make better choices. Get fruit instead of fries, buy wheat instead of white, drink 2% instead of whole. Little changes can have impressive results.

11. Cry. Cry when you need to. Don’t be ashamed of it or apologize for it, but set a timer. Cry it out, but¬†when you’re done—be done.¬† Don’t keep playing sad songs or coming back to it. Stop giving that pain more attention than it deserves.

12. Be brave.¬†That thing you want to do? Just do it. Even if it fails, you’ll learn from it. Risk isn’t a waste, but years spent wondering “what if” probably will be.

13. Fight for things. There’s a strength in walking away when the time is right, but until then—put them gloves on and put ’em up.¬†Don’t so easily give up on something that has grabbed hold of your heart. Give it all¬†you’ve got and if it doesn’t work out, leave it all in the ring with¬†no regrets.

14. Dance. Sing at the top of your lungs.¬†If you can mop an entire floor without busting a move and singing into the mop like it’s a microphone…you need more fun in your life.

15. Learn how to give a good wink, it makes people feel good. Yes, that will probably make you look crazy, but it usually makes at least 60% of people giggle. People need to giggle as much as possible.

16. Everything makes more sense when you write it out.¬†Get a journal and write it out.¬†Ask yourself hard questions and come back to them when you’ve had time to clear your head. Months later, go back and read how you’ve grown or how most of those really stressful situations always seem to work out.

17. Be the bigger person. If they don’t apologize or if they refuse to speak to you–love them anyway and move on.¬†You’ve got big things to do and you don’t have time to get caught up in pointless and never-ending drama.

18. There are no shortcuts when it comes to your dream. Put in the blood, sweat and tears. Pour your heart into something only to throw it in the trash and start all over again.¬†There is no substitute for time, it takes time to craft a skill, to build something beautiful.¬†No matter how many books you read, there’s no Dummies Guide that’s going to instantly make you and your work unforgettable.

19. First impressions are rarely right. They might stick for a little while, but if you take time to get to know someone it’s likely they’re nothing like you assumed and their story is far different than you expected. Know this to be true about yourself too—you’re not doomed if you accidentally make¬†a fool of yourself.

20. Learn how to brew a good pot of coffee. Invite people over. Stop spending $5 one or multiple times a day for a drink. If you’re just obsessed about looking cool—save the paper cup and put your own coffee in it, it’s not like anybody is going to know the difference.

21. Don’t be that girl who thinks a man holding the door for you means he wants to marry you. If a guy likes you, he will let you know. Don’t try to make your life a Taylor Swift song (even if she is the queen of jams).

22. Shaking hands is becoming a lost art–let’s bring it back. Have a firm grip and enough¬†self respect to straighten your shoulders and look someone in the eye. It’s classy, attractive and will never go out of style.

23. Learn from others. People who are further along and/or who have lived longer. Learn from their wisdom, ask them questions, ask for help. Learn from their mistakes and avoid optional obstacles.

24. Be open. To laughter, to love, to spontaneous road trips and trying new things. Do things that will give you stories for years to come and tell those stories every chance you get.

Lovely Letters: Getting Out of “The Friend Zone”

He told me that he thought of me as a friend. All my friends tell me to move on and that I should just throw in the towel, but I honestly don’t think I could find a guy more perfect for me. What should I do?

Sincerely, Friend Zoned

 

Dear Friend Zoned,

It came down to me and my best friend. She and I were sitting on the cold tile floor, in front of the filing cabinets, when he said he liked us both, but he knew he had to choose.

We were seven years old. I just sat there patiently waiting.

My odds weren’t looking good. My best friend was beautiful and she knew how to color better than I did. She was nicer than me, taller than me, her hair was straight (mine was tangled, curly and tragic).

He didn’t even know all the good stuff about me.

The only things he knew were things like: I was terrible at art, I was a painfully enthusiastic evangelist and that I carried a green Tarzan lunch box. These are not cool qualities for a seven-year-old girl.

He chose me and that, dear friend, will forever be the greatest mystery of my childhood.

There was no good reason for it. It wasn’t my dazzling/witty personality, my sense of¬†fashion (unless I missed the memo that said my best look was high water jeans and t-shirts). It was just the mystery of life, the unexplainable¬†reasons of¬†why we love some people and why we don’t choose others.

I don’t have all the answers about¬†love or how this whole thing works. I know that some people stay with their¬†high-school sweethearts, some girls marry a¬†guy they met online, some people never find anybody and I can’t tell you why.

What I can tell you is that if you get the chance at a¬†love story, make it a good one.¬†Don’t choose your hero to be someone who doesn’t even own a white horse, don’t let your heart ache for a¬†man who is looking for Cinderella in other places.

This is your story. You can make it epic, but only if you decide to use the best¬†characters. I know he’s probably incredible, I have no doubt that this guy you’re talking about (your best friend) is likely¬†a good fit for you.

But the reality is that he wants to be cast in a different role and he wants to be the leading man¬†of another story. You know how I know that’s true?

Because “When a man loves a woman… can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world for a good thing he’s found.”¬†

Those might be cheesy lyrics that came dancing through the radio when my Mama was just six years old, but I promise you they are not just some fantasy. I know this because I have a Daddy who looked up toward God himself and said that he would never marry another woman if he didn’t marry my Mama. Once he met her, he was ruined; she was the only woman he could see. They’ve been married almost 30 years and he’s never taken his eyes off of her.

It’s out there and it’s good. I know we’ve all seen a lot of broken marriages, relationships, even friendships, but the real thing exists. Maybe I’m childish and crazy for believing it, but I promise you that I’ve lived on the hopeless side of not believing it¬†and that didn’t¬†make heartbreak any easier or protect me from any pain.

I’d rather live with this crazy notion that the right man is going to come knocking on my door at any minute¬†than to sit around hoping that one day a guy I’ve been secretly pining for will finally decide, after months and years, he likes me¬†and take me on a real date.

You deserve more. I know that as nice as those words are, they’re not always easy to hear¬†(believe me, I’m well acquainted with that reality). I’ve been where you are and I know it’s hard to let go. I know that he probably makes you feel alive all the way to the tips of your fingers, but at the end of the day, those fingers of yours still aren’t laced with his and you can’t make that happen.

It doesn’t really matter if your hair is perfect or you are good at coloring the right one will pick you.¬†He will choose you in a world full of a billion other possibilities. It may not even make sense, but he’ll set his sight on you and Tarzan lunch boxes and bad blue jeans won’t change his mind.¬†But if he’s looking for¬†another girl or telling you that you’re not the right one,¬†you’ve got to start dreaming for better things. A good man will be up front and let you know how he feels; even seven year old boys eventually make their choice and make it known. You’ve got to start believing that it is worth waiting for someone who looks you right in your pretty little eyes and says, “This is it for me, it’s you or it’s nobody.”

I’m no expert, friend. I’m just a girl who still believes that she’ll get chosen without having to always convince¬†him of all the good stuff. He’ll love me without me having to jump and wave my arms in front of his face, without me having to buy better blue jeans or discover hair taming products. It will be a mystery to me, but he’ll see someone¬†worth bringing flowers to and someone worth adoring¬†and¬†I think I can wait a little longer for a man like that.

You’re worth that kind of love, sweet girl. I believe it is out there, but chances are you won’t find it waiting around in the friend zone.

Ashlin

Exchanging The Grief for The Good

My friend died.

And I remember the exact spot where my knees hit the hardwood floor of my house as soon as I read the words that no fifteen year old expects on a Monday morning.

That was the beginning of a¬†series of stories that no matter how many times I tried, I never knew which shelf to place them on. I also didn’t know then that I’d spend years shoving and shuffling them around.¬†I just knew that I wanted to keep them in plain sight. ¬†It felt so wrong to just put them¬†in the closet, or in an old wooden box beneath my bed.¬†

I never would have known after that first loss of the sweet blonde- haired boy, five more would follow.

Since then, I’ve never really known¬†how to knit their names into conversations.¬†I made their stories a piece of decor in my life, but I never know how to explain them to new guests. ¬†How do you explain these books of loss that sit there in the center of your mantle,¬†a focal point of your home?

“Well, these are the six people I carry in my heart and on my sleeves. I keep them close so that how they left never becomes casual. So that I don’t forget how important it is to use words, to look people in the eye, to plant myself and not¬†run away.”

I spent years asking God to fill each of my limbs with as much love as they could hold, but every phone call that came after that first one, gave me reason to pull the plug and let the good spill out.  

The weight of love, along with the heaviness of grief, became too much for me to carry.

I thought I needed those books of grief to be front and center. I needed to remember, to make it all matter, to find some sort of higher meaning in the how and why. I needed them to be there, to remind me to find the answers; to be the one to carry the candle.

I exchanged love and living for grief, because I thought it would give their deaths some kind of meaning.

I put my laughter, my joy, and my peace in boxes that I stored in an old dusty attic and quickly forgot about the way that burnt orange leaves and the yellow lines on the pavement give me a sense of adventure. I lost touch with the way that the shades of blue in a sky, a shirt, or a set of strong eyes can stir my heart.

I think I lost myself when I lost them…and I’m starting to see how that was never a noble cause.

So, I’m learning how to take them off the mantle and put them into boxes. I’m learning that it’s okay to pack them away. It’s not wrong, or unloving, or failure to replace them with pictures of laughter at baseball games and birthday parties. It doesn’t make their lives less. Nothing could do that.

I never even let most people read those stories, because I knew if they did, they’d see the evidence of my tears on those pages. I knew they’d see the stains of my own doubt and fear scattered throughout. Those stories brought out the worst of me, the parts that I thought, if ever seen, would cause a person to leave.

I’m learning that this loss shouldn’t be¬†the center of my story. Those aren’t¬†the books I want others to read when they come over for coffee and a game night. I want them to hear lullabies of laughter and about stories of “fudgery almond” ice cream and to watch the fullness of joy that has come, now that I’ve decided to pack away the years of grief.

There will be times, when strangers become friends and then become family, and¬†I’ll occasionally take them to that attic. I’ll pull out those dusty books and I’ll show them the stories of those people; the faces of the kids who made me better. The ones I miss, and the childhood we shared and how they made me laugh, called me great, played footsie with me, picked me up and swung me around. I’ll tell them about the car crashes and the weapons and the choices so dark that I’ll have to ask them to bring a flashlight, because I might still get a little afraid.

I know these stories will always be around. They’ll always stay somewhere inside these walls, that’s the price we pay for love. But I can’t keep them on this mantle, on the shelves of this living room. Because they are books that have will always questions that I can’t answer, and pages that are blank and that I wish could have been filled. But there’s just no more to be added, there’s nothing I could say or write to change what they were, what they are.

It’s another Monday morning, and I’m now seven years older. I’ve finally let God lift me up from the floor, I let him help me pack these boxes.

I’m letting him bring down the ones I took up there a long time ago, the ones that find life and joy in the good things like colder weather, sunsets and stories that aren’t so sad.

I finally see how¬†that’s perfectly okay and it doesn’t make me selfish and it doesn’t mean I love them any less or that I won’t let it remind me to¬† use words, to look people in the eye, to plant myself and not¬†run away”.¬†

But this life…it’s for living, for laughing and for loving. Yeah, sometimes we find ourselves losing, but I don’t want that to be¬†the center of my story.

I’m learning that it’s brave to live on, to live fully, when you’ve lost people you love. That it’s not heartless or reckless,¬†or careless to pack the sadness away.

In our monkey bar and sandbox days, we lived in the moment and laughed without fear. I’m seeing now that’s what we always wanted for each other, and those are the memories of them that keep me strong. I’m not sorry that I felt their loss, that I let it make me cry, but I’m sorry that I let the grief¬†outstay the good.

So the good things¬†are what I’ll keep in plain sight and I’ll let God pack the grief away.

Their stories were beautiful, but this one is mine and I think it’s time that it become stronger, braver, and the laughter-filled kind.

 

 

Lovely Letters: You and Your Baggage

I don’t want to live in the haunting memories. I can’t figure out if I will ever move on.  Why do we carry around this baggage?

-M

 

M,

Yesterday consisted of sifting and sorting through my inbox. Letters from others like you, filled with words of joy, pain, confusion, excitement, thankfulness, uncertainty.

While replying to some of them, I moved from¬†the¬†couch, to an adirondack chair, to a comfy leather chair, to a bean bag, to a lawn chair. ¬†I kept trying all day to fill blank boxes¬†with words. I kept hoping I could say something to load others up with¬†something that will pour¬†hope back into their bones.¬†But no matter how many times I changed location or position, I couldn’t get comfortable with all the words on my screen. They were just plain heavy.

That being said, there’s one thing I learned while letting my eyes pour over all the things tossed into my mailbox.

We’ve all got some baggage.

I mean, really, we’re¬†all lugging around clunky and bulky suitcases. Some are filled with words, some are filled with dark memories, some filled with disappointed hopes. Here we are, broken and at the core, all the same.

But just a few days ago, crying on the murky green carpet of my little house in Georgia, I learned something about traveling lighter.

When we carry around the pain, the hurt, the stings of the past as our baggage, we give ourselves all the reasons not to try again. We create walls to make us safe. But the reality is, after lugging those bags around for a while, you start realize that hurt is a lot easier to heal from than those bags are to carry.

We carry our bags to remind ourselves that¬†people will break your heart.¬†We keep them close and whenever we think we’re in the slightest bit of danger, we start stacking them like a fort around us.¬†Not again, I’m never going there again. This is often the anthem of humanity.

We had some visitors in our home this week and one of them didn’t bring any clothes (seriously, this person packed almost nothing). The other two brought so little that they could easily fit it all in their arms.

It’s easier to travel without all that weight.”¬†

That was their motto, their anthem, their reason for walking around in the same clothes and worn out shoes. It was easier to travel that way, and that was all the reason they needed to leave their bags behind.

Because they’d rather live lightly than carry around the heavy weight of what makes them feel safe or comfortable.

They may appear poor to the rest of the world, they may appear unprepared and unwise.¬†The reality is, they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever known.¬†They have a posture, a strength, a fierce confidence that I’ve never seen before now. They live lightly and loudly. They climb trees, run mountains, jump cliffs and get covered in mud and dirt over and over again. They do it all, knowing they have no change of clothes, that they may have to sleep covered in today’s dust.¬†But they’re living, and it’s a lot easier to do and a lot more fun when you’re not trying to figure where to keep all your bags.

Rip the tag off, M. Take one last look at that frumpy set of luggage that you’ve grown to know so well. ¬†Leave them all where they are and¬†choose to pack light. Choose to let go of whatever it is that’s weighing your heart down, whatever suitcases are packed with things that keep you from laughing loudly and playing in the mud.

Let this be the spark that starts the kind of fire it takes to be brave, to do something that absolutely terrifies you. To live in a way that makes you laugh in the mud instead of living in fear of it.

We’ve all got it, M. We are all carrying stuff around, but I’m trying to figure out how to throw things off along the way. Sometimes, I just have to muster just enough strength to drop what it will take¬†to climb that staircase, or to get in my car, to say something scary¬†or to do something that makes people think I’ve lost my mind.

Today, that’s enough. Tomorrow, I’ll have to throw off a little more.

There’s a reason that airlines charge extra for the more bags you bring. Oh, and the heavier they are, the higher the cost. Isn’t that just how pulling them around yourself seems to feel? Trust me, M, you don’t want to exchange¬†your¬†future or your joy for the currency it takes to pay the charge for lugging around the past.

It’s all a choice, M. You get to choose what you carry. I hope you’ll leave your bags behind. If you do, I think you’ll find that you’ve got what it takes to make it, even if you go¬†with¬†nothing more than the clothes on your back.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________